5 Reasons I Love Research

researchOne part of writing that goes out the window during NaNoWriMo month is research. You better have that done before starting the mad dash to 50,000 words in a month.

That, I suppose is another reason (on top of the 23 I mentioned last month) why I am not doing this particular contest: research. When I write, I have no control over when I will need to research and when I’ll write-write-write. And if I need to search for detail, there’s no telling how long it’ll take. I’ve been known to spend a week–ten days–uncovering the information my story requires. I don’t know what it is until I find it. It’s like a Rubik’s cube–pieces pop into place when I have the right stuff.

Truth, I love research. I get lost in it. I read and read and read until I get a sense of the world that is that character, setting, time frame–whatever it is. I know when I’m done, but more importantly–I know when I’m not done. I just keep digging. And I love it. Why? Research:

  • answers questions. I’m chatting with friends about global warming. We-all wonder–how much hotter is it today than it used to be. I jump on Google and find out–the Global surface temperature increased 0.74 degrees in the last hundred years. I read a bit further and find out it’s cooler today than two million years ago. We’re in an ice age. That’s confusing. I either keep reading or put it on my ‘todo’ list for later.
  • gives me ‘insider knowledge’ about whatever I choose. When I’m visiting the everglades, it’s good to know crocodiles have been around over 200 million years. That means they aren’t likely to become extinct before my trip is over. I think about it and decide they do fit their environment pretty well, even if that ‘environment’ is disappearing.
  • Puts me in the driver’s seat–I know stuff no one else does. Everyone has a friend whose debate technique is only one fact deep. When I throw facts at them, they don’t know what to do. (They either insult my lineage or make excuses.)
  • ignites my imagination. I’m out there, exploring a world that fascinates me, not knowing what I’ll find, and suddenly one detail pushes my creativity one way or another. Something I’ve uncovered about a street or an artifact turns the story in a direction I didn’t expect and the plot begins to rewrite itself. I love that! Well–I do love it if it’s early enough in the process. If it’s the eleventh hour, not so much–though I still go with it. You must, right?
  • excites me. I love the high I get from learning new stuff, solving problems I didn’t think I could. It’s like nothing else in the world.

Here’s what I was researching three years ago and last year. Here’s what I’m researching for my new book (which is non-fiction):

  • the Maker Movement–do it yourself is back, big time. People all over the country are doing stuff themselves and exulting in the effort.
  • MOOCs–Massive Open Online Courses–all the rage in education right now. They’re mostly free, provide lots of information, and are a great way to erase the digital divide–if we can get the information out there.
  • Genius Hour–allowing workers/students 20% of the workweek/schoolday to do whatever creative endeavor they’d like. Google began it and education’s picking it up. I’m very excited about it.

How about you? What’s snagged your cerebral attention?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-8 technology curriculum and technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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21 thoughts on “5 Reasons I Love Research

  1. Right now I’m looking into the death of the suburbs as we know them. I heard an interview with a women, my bad, can remember her name, but she listed some very persuasive arguments as to why they don’t many sense for today’s population,

    • Well that sounds interesting. Counter-intuitive and exactly what gets my attention. Exactly the reason why ‘research’ and ‘nanowrimo’ are oil and water–I can easily read 50,000 words without writing a single one.

  2. OMG, I should not leave comments when I have been awake all night.

  3. Jacqui – I am with you on this. I work like Sam Beckett (he of Quantum Leap fame), working away until I hit upon a subject I don’t know enough about. I’ll then go oof and research it as much as I need for the story (sometimes more) and then ‘crack on’ until I hit the next lack-of-facts snag. I suppose with NaNo, the technique would be to gloss over the ‘need to know more about this’ and finish the 50k. Once the story’s completed, then there’s time to go back over. However, don’t you find that the research itself can inspire new story-lines and adventures?

  4. I haven’t had to do research yet for my kind of writing but when I have had to do any, I find it fulfilling.
    As well, even though I’ve found you recently, I had a feeling you like research. Must be the in depth content of your posts. Thank you for this one too. 😉

    • That’s interesting, Tess. I do tend to be evidence-based. Can’t stop myself. That’s why I can’t write literary fiction–that delves into thoughts and feelings. I’m OK with that.

      • Different strokes etc.? Makes us interesting to get to know.

      • I would say that BTT is literary fiction and well done at that. You know how much I love that story. Don’t you count it as literary fiction? Your main character and several secondary characters are rich with personality, and the dilemmas they face are tangible. All stuff created by you! Based on anthropological evidence, but the story is yours.

  5. Tweeted via @authorrbaustin.

  6. I love research, and I love how you even put real facts in your points about why you enjoy being a fact-finder. I can see these making for some interesting dialogue between your main character and a protagonist that thinks only one fact deep.

    During NaNo, I have often turned my research mission into part of the prose I’m writing. It actually ramps up my word count even though I know I’ll likely edit out parts of it if I decide to push my draft toward a real novel. I let my character talk about how she or he doesn’t know what is right, and then I let the character search for answers. If I’m writing in the current times or in the future, I can even let my characters do research using technology. For example, you can have your one-dimensional character take an online class written by your deep thinker and either refuse to believe and demand a refund, or use it to add a new dimension to his life. Fun stuff. 😉

    • Well that’s a clever idea. Drafts are always seriously wittled away, but it’s hard to tell what works until you’ve put it on paper. I’ve read novels where the main character researches as part of the story–kind of like backstory.

  7. Jacqui I am madly researching things for my Nanowrimo novel and love the quick answer GOOGLE although some material is questionable for me research is still a very important part of this challenge and like you it sometimes has me reading for hours, so in this month I highlight the things I need to research for later and keep writing my crappy first draft. Loved the post as always you give me plenty of things to think about and research.

  8. I love doing research because it fills in my scant amount of knowledge on subjects that interest me, and on subjects I didn’t even know enough about to consider. One article or book leads to another. Even if it isn’t something specific I need for my WIP, research provides a rich background. I sometimes find that something I suspect, can be supported by historical or scientific evidence, and that makes my story more credible.

    Funniest thing is the arguments I sometimes get from people who haven’t done the research but consider themselves sufficiently expert to make negative comments about stuff that doesn’t ring true. But that’s another topic.

    Some authors include a bibliography of work they researched, and I’ll look into some of the books they read. At the very least, it always impresses me how much an author will find out to give substance to his story. Since they are already published, I can’t go wrong by following their lead.

    The NaNoWriMo community intrigues me more than doing the event. This was not my year for it but I’m having fun reading about those who are involved.

    Thanks, Jacqui, for explaining your attraction to researching your subject. You didn’t need to prove it to me; it shows in the quality of your writing.

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